Hailed as the greatest naturalist of his time on
Exmoor, Hector Heywood was a man of all seasons
totally at one with nature, whether it was farming,
harbouring the deer or birds-nesting.
He was a crack
shot, could plough a straight furrow (set up by
driving to his handkerchief tied in the hedge), build a
wall or lay a hedge with the best of them.
Born in 1905, the story of Hector’s life
really begins with his forbears, Exmoor farmers on
both sides of his family. He was heavily influenced in
his formative years by his uncle Ernest Bawden, the
famous huntsman of the Devon and Somerset
Staghounds. Hector was a strong man and possessed
of an iron will. He knew no fear in galloping the moor,
going down a cliff face on a rope end or up the
most difficult of trees to climb. Yet according to the
psychotherapist Tim Williams Hector became a
troubled man from the age of seven because of his
involvement in his brother’s tragic death. This led on
to becoming a difficult man to live with, before, and
after his marriage. One can only have great
admiration for his long-suffering wife Joan, born into
the purple of commerce, but who after marrying
Hector in 1940 led a life of trial and no little hardship.
In this perceptive biography of an extraordinary
countryman, both hugely talented and staggeringly
awkward, Hector’s son Bruce Heywood paints an
honest yet sympathetic portrait of his father, and
of the host of colourful characters who touched
Hector’s life. Anyone with an interest in Exmoor
in particular, or English country life in the twentieth
century in general, will be fascinated by the story of
this cussed, yet ultimately intriguing character.
Bruce Heywood was born at Withypool
on Exmoor in 1942. He went to Christ’s
Hospital School near Horsham for 9 years.
In 1964 he went to Seale-Hayne Agricultural
College. After a variety of jobs in and
relating to agriculture, he settled to
farming. He married Constance Ashwin
from Londesborough, East Yorkshire in
1970; they had two children, Victoria and
Oliver. An opportunity on his fatherin-
law’s estate to farm a larger farm
precipitated a move, lock, stock and barrel,
from North Devon. He is keen on country
sports, hunting with the Holderness
Foxhounds in East Yorkshire for 14
seasons. He also owned and trained a few
point-to-pointers, the best of which, “Ocean
Day” won the prestigious Grimthorpe Gold
Cup two years running.
He moved back down onto his native
Exmoor to farm at Sanctuary within the
parish of Dulverton, where he has hunted
with the Devon and Somerset Staghounds
for 16 seasons. He was successful as a
Conservative candidate in the local
elections in May 2011 and represents the
Dulverton and District ward on the West
Somerset District Council.
This is Bruce’s
first book, which was initiated by a request
from Oliver for more knowledge of his
Imprint: Ryelands. ISBN 978 1 906551 32 2, hardback, 297x210mm, 160 pages. Published August 2012.